Growing up in the 60s as the drummer of a band that was starting to surface in the pop culture and mainstream stardom, it was hard to break free from the ‘sex-drugs-and-rock n roll pandemonium that instantly shackles rock bands till this day. In similar respect, The Who took to the world a new born crazed back in 1967 amassing a firm and solid fan base for their music and notorious stage antics. The Who, who has been inducted as the 3rd most notable British band in the Rock and Roll history following The Rolling Stones and The Beetles, were the first ever band to destroy their equipments on stage that ultimately became their most prominent signature of their performances.
Keith Moon, God rest his soul, once drove his car through the glass doors of a hotel,
driving all the way up to the reception desk,
got out and asked for the key to his room – Pete Twonshend
1964 – The Who emerged around this time with Roger Daltrey on vocals, Pete Townshend on guitars, John Entwistle on bass and Keith Moon on drums. Today one of their most prominent milestone can be heard from TV’s popular crime scene chronicles, CSI: MIAMI theme song, Never Get Fooled Again.
Keith Moon auditioned for the drummers position and was immediately accepted thus he continued telling different version of how he initially started with ‘The Who’. Some of which are:
‘He claimed that he came to The Who’s gig dressed in ginger including his hair that was dyed ginger and bragged he could play better than the session drummer who filled in for Sandom claiming that he played until almost destroying the kits in the process’
‘He also told Paul McCartney of The Beatles when asked how he joined The Who that he has just been filling in for the band for the last 15 years and never really got an invitation to join the band officially’
1964 – While Sandom was the peacekeeper of the band, which was constantly getting into fights that was more notable between Pete and John, the structure changed after Keith as now they were fighting with each other almost all the time. Pete was particularly unhappy with the way Keith played the drums for not following the traditional time keeping later attested that Keith’s drumming style contributed to their discerning sounds. Critics continued labelling his drumming skills to be all over the place but throughout countless video clips of The Who during their hey day’s, it is almost clear that he purposely did to create a chaos within the music itself. The same chaos that gave the band the acceptance in the musical platform that they so richly deserved.
More Stories on Keith Moon here: He’s Keith Moon, What’s Your Super Power?.
Constantly described as an expressionist and attention grabber, Keith hated playing drum’s solo and during a show, Pete and John made an agreement to stop playing guitar and bass during one of the songs to allow the spotlight on Keith’s drum solos. The moment he realised that Pete and John, stopped playing, he too quit the drum’s succession, claiming that ‘drum solos were boring’
Besides his extraordinary skills at drums, Keith loved to sing despite of his weak vocals. During recording of vocals, Moon got himself removed from the studio for attempting to offer funny commentaries during songs announcement and making the other members laugh while recording. But Moon being Moon always found a way back into the recording studio as heard at the end of ‘Happy Jack’ where Townshend says ‘I saw ya!’ when he saw Moon sneaking in. Moon eventually contributed on songs like; Bucket T, Barbara Ann, Pictures of Lily and a more serious tone on Bell Boy. Moon will continue contributing his vocals on many other songs and will be credited with endless recognition for being the main propeller in certain aspect of changing the direction of Who’s music in a distinctive and versatile manner. Some of his most talked about contributions are seen through songs like Baba O’Riley for producing a violin solo, the impact on ‘Tommy’s Holiday Inn’ which was achieved through action set in the backdrop of Holliday Inn as per Moon’s suggestion and ‘The Ox’ instrumental that he co-composed.
Years later many would agree that even when all the individual members were emotional power play that supported ‘The Who’s’ structure, Moon was the soul of the band who kept them together despite of having the who banned from all principle hotel chains such as Holiday Inn, Sheraton and Hilton plus the entire city of Flint, Michigan. He aded a dramatic grit to the proceeding and was the fine line that kept the band from crossing to the monotonous land.
More pictures on The Who: The Who – The Milestone.
1964 – It has been reported that the whole ‘The Who’ stage antics started around this time during a performance at Railway Tavern where Pete Townshend accidentally broke his guitar. He proceeded in smashing his guitar out of frustration and Keith responded by kicking off his drum covers. What started out as a mere accident instantly captured fans interest who cited their infatuation for The Who’s knack for destruction. This will continue to become The Who’s would soon become The Who’s legendary imprint taking place on all their future shows. It has also been one of the staples of “50 Moments That Changed The History Of Rock n Roll’ by Rolling Stones.
A Quick One – 1966
1966 – Keith Moon together with John Entwistle planned to leave The Who and form ‘Lead Zappelin’ together with
The Who Sell Out – 1967
1967 – The Who embarked on their first ever US tour as a supporting act to the then main headliners Herman’s Hermitts.
– The Who appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Show in 1967 and this would serve as their most defining moment of the show ultimately securing The Who number 10 ranking in the ‘100 Greatest Rock n Roll Moments On Television’. By this time, The Who were already famously known for the mild explosion in their shows through an explosive that was placed in Keith Moon’s drum kits to create a light pyrotechnic effect. Unbeknown to them, Keith Moon had bribed a stage staff to insert 10 times the usual amount of explosive into the kits and when Keith proceeded to detonate it, the explosion was so loud and intense that it injured Keith, set Pete’s hair on fire and affected his hearing (the beginning of Pete’s Tinnitus) with Tommy Smothers appearing shocked in the background. Watch clip, you will see Keith Moon lying flat on the floor.
Tommy – 1969
1970 – Keith Moon accidentally ran over his driver, Neil Bolan while trying to escape the pursuit of a group of skinheads. It is said that for years, Keith has been plunged with depression for Bolan’s death and continued to blame himself over the tragedy.
Who’s Next – 1971
Quodrophenia – 1973
1973 – Keith Moon passed out during the ‘The Who’s’ show after taking a huge amount of horse tranquillisers and had to be removed from the stage. He however, was seen being brought back to perform 30 minutes after the event.
The Who By Numbers – 1975
1975 – The Who set the record for the highest crowd to turn up for an indoor concert at the Pontiac Silverdome
1975 – Keith Moon releases a solo album ‘Two Sides Of The Moon’, which was a critical failure. Being the greatest drummer of his time, he merely appeared in 3 tracks and rendered his vocals throughout the album. A defeating failure largely due to Keith Moon being tone-deaf.
1975 – The Who became one of the first bands to venture into film and based on their hit rock opera album, the film Tommy was released. Tommy won the award ‘Rock Movie Of The Year’ in the first annual of ‘Rock Music Award’. Pete Townshend was nominated for Oscar for his role in the music adaptation and the movie’s soundtrack became a commercial success peaking at number two on the Billboards Award.
1976 – The Who played at The Valley, Charlton Athletic, which was recorded as The World’s Loudest Concert for more then 10 years in Guinness Book Of Records. It is believed that the impact of the concert furthered instigated Pete Townshend’s hearing problems.
Who Are You – 1978
1978 – The Who released their most critical album to date, which became the fastest selling album in US and the most successful milestone from The Who’s hefty catalog. It is said during this time, Keith Moon has put up a lot of weight from all the heavy drinking he did that he had to be squeezed behind a chair just so his bulge won’t show for the cover shot. The album was released on the 18 of August and went on to receive endless awards in the wake of Keith’s passing.
1978 – Keith Moon died from an overdose on the 7th of September a few hours after attending a viewing party organised by Beatle’s Paul McCartney. The party ‘The Buddy Holly Story’ was in honour of another rock star who unfortunately passed away at the peak of his career at the tender age of 22 when the small aircraft he chartered crashed on the 2nd February in the face of a snowstorm. Buddy Holly who had 3 albums to his musical career was found with the rest of the passengers on the next day after the snowstorm has weathered. Keith Moon overdosed on a prescribed medication that was supplied to help alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
– At the time of his death, Keith Moon seems to have sobered up for about 6 months and was making a full effort of recovery and was focusing on his new job as the publicist of Shepperton Studios that belonged to the band.
Quite eerily so, the cover of the chair that Moon is sitting on read: Never To Be Taken Away and he passed away in less than 3 weeks after the album was released.
1979 – The Who returned to the stage in May after taking some time off following Keith’s death and their return was well-received by the fans with Rainbow Theatre, London marking the first venue of a series of concerts to follow.
1979 – Following Keith Moon’s death, Pete Townshend invited Kenney Jones to join The Who and replace Moon on the drums partly because Jones was also one of Moon’s friend and was with him on the night before his death at Paul McCartney’s The Buddy Holly Story viewing party.
-The Who’s second movie Quadrophenia was released in 1979. It is reported that Sex Pistol’s vocalist John Lydon famously known as Johnny Rotten auditioned for a part in the film but did not manage to secure a part.
– In the same year, ‘The Kids Are Alright’ documentary was released capturing The Who’s signifying moments together with their final performance with Keith Moon.
-Later that year, The Who appeared on the ‘Time’s’ cover making them the 3rd band to formally do so. As stated in The Time Magazine December 1979 issue, cover story by Jay Cocks:
Time enough, in 15 years, for three new generations and a dozen new audiences.
The Who has outpaced them all.
Time enough for a bewilderment of pop styles to flare, settle, burn out.
The Who has outlasted them all.
Too much time for most rock bands to survive.
The Who, in every sense of the word, has outlived them all, and outclassed them too
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1979 – During a tour in Ohio in 1979, a crowd crush killed 11 people and injuring 26 others who went to the concert to catch ‘The Who’s’ performance. The crowd mistook the band’s soundcheck as the initiation of the show and started to rush through a half closed door to the venue. It is believed that the whole commotion was due to the free seating concept and the efforts to get as close to the stage due to the arrangement ended in tragedy. The band members were not told about the incident until they had finished performing. A detailed description are available in this clip:
The Who were deeply shaken upon learning about the incident and in the following evening as they set to perform to a crowd in Buffalo, New York, Roger Daltrey went on to quote:
‘The band lost a lot of family last night and this show is for them’
The tragedy left a huge blow on the band members who felt partly responsible for the death of 11 kids that were around the age of 15 to 27. The families of the victims proceeded in suing the band, the concert promoters Electric Factory Concerts and the city of Cincinnati. The legal issues were settled in 1983 and the city continued to post a 25 years ban on festival seatings with some exception which was dismissed in …
The concert was recorded as one of the deadliest concert disaster in American History at the time and no memorial was ever erected for the victims.
The Cincinnati tragedy also inspired the book: Are The Kid’s Alright? The Rock Generation and its Hidden Death Wishes.
1980 – The Who’s third film, McVicar was released
Face Dancers – 1981
It’s Hard – 1982
Around 1980 circa to 1982, the band was going through immense pressure as Townshend marriage fell apart and he ventured into the web of addiction by taking cocaine and heroin. Once a huge protestor of drugs and a self-righteous man, his newly found habits shocked not only the world but also his band members. While the band released two equally successful albums within the frame of 2 years with hits that ranked high on prominent charts, many of their fans expressed dissatisfaction towards the band’s new sound.
1982 – Townshend eventually pulled himself together and embarked on The Who’s farewell tour to US and Canada. The tour marked as The Who’s highest grossing ever and the band played to sold out crowds.
1983 – Townshend spent time writing new material for the band but found himself unable to so he departed from The Who wishing the rest of the members best of luck. He then started writing his own materials and become the founder of radio work, Firehouse.
1988 – The Who were awarded with British Phonographic Industry’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1988 Brits Award held at Royal Albert Hall, London.
1989 – The Who embarked on ‘The Kid’s Are Alright 25th Anniversary Reunion Tour’. 100,000 thousand were released for their two shows at Massachusetts and the tickets sold out 8 hours from the time of its released beating previous record set by U2 and David Bowie. Their whole tour was sold out selling over 2 million tickets.
1990 – The Who were inducted in the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame describing them as the prime contenders for the title ‘Worl’d Greatest Rock Band’
1996 – Revival of Quadrophenia
1998 – VH1 honoured The Who with number 9 spot for 100 Greatest Artists of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
2002 – The band performed at the Madison Square Garden. The concert was dedicated to families of rescuers who lost their lives at the World Trade Centre in the September 11 catastrophe.
– The Who were honoured with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in the same year.
2002 – The show The Who played in England that year would mark as the band’s bassist, John Entwistle’s few final shows. He was found dead in his room at the Hard Rock Hotel on the 27 June 2002. Entwistle died from an apparent heart attack believed to be attributed by Cocaine.
Books written on and by the members of The Who (selected numbers only)
WHO AM I by PETE TOWNSHEND
Pete Townshend is the legendary lead guitarist and principal songwriter for The Who, one of the most influential rock-and-roll bands of all time. He is one of Rolling Stone‘s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Roger Daltrey: The Biography by Stafford Hildred and Tim Ewbank
Tim Ewbank is an entertainment writer and former TV correspondent for the Daily Mail. Stafford Hildred is a television critic and entertainment writer. They are the coauthors of Jamie Oliver, Rod Stewart: The New Biography, and Russell Crowe: The Biography.
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of THE WHO 1958-1978 by Andrew Neill, Roger Daltrey, Matthew Kent and Chris Stamp
The book begins in the late ’50s, when the band’s musicians began playing together in “trad jazz” bands, and continues to the phenomenal success of their groundbreaking rock opera Tommy and subsequent emergence as one of the world’s most popular acts, filling stadiums on both sides of the Atlantic. Neill and Kent wisely wrap things up with the death of drummer Keith Moon in 1978. Many feel the band should have done the same thing, but it continues performing to huge crowds of loyal fans who will appreciate this painstaking chronicle.
Full Moon: The Amazing Rock and Roll Life of the Late Keith Moon by Peter Dougal Butler
“Full Moon” is Butler’s memoir of that ride: essential reading for Who fans, and a masterclass in the mayhem caused by rock ‘n’ roll excess.
“Full Moon” is Butler’s memoir of that ride: essential reading for Who fans, and a masterclass in the mayhem caused by rock ‘n’ roll excess.
Bass Culture: The John Entwistle Guitar Collection
This beautiful full-color coffee table book highlights dozens of basses and guitars from the private collection of the Who s John Entwhistle. Includes many historic and limited-run instruments.
THE WHO by MARCUS HEAM
Marcus Hearn is the acclaimed author of Titan’s Hammer Vault, The Art of Hammer and Hammer Glamour. His other books include authorised biographies of filmmakers George Lucas and Gerry Anderson, and Eight Days a Week, the story of The Beatles’ final world tour.
The Life And Death Of A Rock Legend – Tony Fletcher
Tony Fletcher is the author of seven non-fiction books and one novel. His biography of drummer Keith Moon has been named in many a Best Music Book list, and his biography of R.E.M., updated in 2013 as ‘Perfect Circle,’ has been published in over half a dozen countries. ‘A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths’ was published in the UK by William Heinemann in September 2012, and by Crown Archetype in the USA in December 2012, with paperback editions following in the corresponding months of 2013. A memoir of his South London schooldays, ‘Boy About Town,’ was published in the UK by William Heinemann in July 2013, and is available in the USA as of September 2013.